Gameplay- 8/10- Nihilumbra is a 2-D side scroller, slightly a platformer, with more of a puzzle/problem solving element to it. You are on the run, new to this world, trying to find your way. To where? Well, you don't know. Along the way you will encounter seemingly dead ends, vicious enemies, and quite a breath taking world. While traversing this new and beautiful world you will come across glowing orbs of light, ranging in various colors. This is where the bulk of game play is centered around. Starting out your character, a blob, can pretty much only walk and jump, but by absorbing these different color orbs you are granted a range of new abilities. For instance, absorbing the color blue allows you to "paint" the ground with a sheet of ice. This allows you to pick up momentum while moving, making it so you can leap much further, clearing gaps that you normally couldn't. It doesn't end there, these new abilities you gain have a variety of uses. Coat the ice in front of you while you are on the run, making it easier to escape your tormentor. Or perhaps trick them into chasing you, using the ice so they slide right off a cliff, while you safely make the leap across. This versatility is one of the examples that makes this game so enjoyable.
You will also be combining colors quite a bit, making it so you have to not only think quick, but react quickly too. For example, the color green allows you to bounce on the surface it is painted on, while brown, you stick to. So using blue for speed, green to get the height, and then brown to stick the landing... well, you get the point.
There are five levels(each with several stages), and each one has a new color and puzzles catering to that colors ability. The game is a good challenge, but nothing that you will get stuck on. Puzzle wise at least, it may take a couple tries to time a jump or something similar. While I wished for a bit more challenge in the problem solving element of the game, by the end, I was satisfied with what
I just went through.
Control wise, everything plays very smoothly, with both pad and touch controls responding great. You control your blob with the analog and use your finger(any one you'd like) to paint the colors. I never experienced much of a problem doing either, and it's one of those games you can have confidence in your jumps, rarely having to worry about your landing. When you do, it's probably your own fault.
Story- 6/10- You start out as a simple blob. You were created from The Void. You are a part of The Void. You have no purpose out there in the world, no place. Yet, something compels you... Now, on the run, constantly being reminded of your outcast status, you explore the new and strange world surrounding you. As you do so, The Void is not far behind you destroying everything in order to reclaim you, spawning creatures along the way to help it do so. Is there more to your "life"? A purpose, a place for you? Well, you have to play to find out.
As I said, you are constantly being reminded of what you are and that you have no real purpose in this world. This is done by a voice over throughout the game. While I did enjoy it at first, I found it to get a bit tiresome as it went on, almost like, okay, I get it. In fact, one of my few complaints with Nihilumbra is that I think the story tries to be a bit too deep for it's own good. I guess not so much the story itself, but the whole "meaning of life" and existence thing was laid on a bit too thick for what the game is. An RPG like Xenogears, yes, it has time to flesh things out through story and characters. A five leveled 2-D game though, it just doesn't play out as well. I don't feel it hurts the game at all, and it's not even that it's done badly, it's just that as I played, the emotions necessary for such a story to work and get it's point across just wasn't there. At least not for me.
Replay- 3/10- This is the one part in almost all of my reviews that I am constantly disappointed in. As great as some of these Vita games are, a lot of them are worth a play through and not much more. Maybe that's a good thing, with memory space being so limited and expensive. The point is, unfortunately, Nihilumbra is no different.
Of course you will always have trophies, so those who care about them will be able to replay levels by stages to grab what they need. There are a couple modes to play through and challenges to complete within stages, but other than that, I can't see playing this again anytime soon no matter how much I enjoyed it. And I did enjoy it. Oh, and you can unlock art and concept drawings if there is anybody who actually cares about that stuff.
Graphics/Sound- 8/10- This is where Nihilumbra really shines. This game is absolutely stunning. Foregrounds, backgrounds, mid-ground, I don't care, you name it it looks great! It's a living, moving piece of artwork, with smooth animations and fluid movements about. Seeing the waterfalls in the backgrounds pouring down, or the fog rolling by behind you, everything is just gorgeous, really making use of the Vita's beautiful screen. The only reason I didn't score this part higher was that some stages seemed so still compared to others. There was still some background rustle, don't get me wrong, but after battling your way through a raging blizzard, the contrast was very noticeable. Everything still looked and moved just as great, it just seemed a bit uneven.
The sound and score are equally as engaging. I actually found myself humming some of the background music after playing, some of the tracks even reminding me of some Square-Enix tunes. Sound effect wise, the shrieks of some of the enemies were absolutely terrifying. Spiked projectiles, even your characters death, all sounded great. I started this game on a bus trip from MN to WI and I forgot my headphones. Not wanting to disturb others I had the sound low enough that I could barely hear it. From what I did hear though, I wanted to hear more. So I stopped, waited until the first rest stop and grabbed a new pair if headphones and started over. I'm glad I did, I really would have been missing out on a great part of this game.
Overall, I was really impressed with Nihilumbra, more so than I thought I'd be. Besides PS+ free games, I buy games like crazy with all the great sales lately. Yet, I hardly ever find one I want to play through. I had no trouble here, and at times I forgot I was reviewing it and had to go back for screenshots.
Besides the already stated problems, I had very few gripes about the game. Load times were a bit longer than I like, and it was rare any of the puzzles took more than a minute or two to grasp, but I didn't mind these things too much at all. Anything else is just me being picky. What we have here is a solid game, worth a sit down to play through. If you are looking for something that will keep you playing til the end, I found Nihilumbra to be one great game. It's not perfect, but what game is? This game is definitely one to have in your collection, but don't expect to really want to do much with it after you beat it.